Forgive As God Has Forgiven You Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” As Christians we are the most forgiven people in the world. We should therefore be the most forgiving people in the world. We all know it is difficult to forgive others genuinely and completely.
What Is Biblical Forgiveness? It is not saying, “I forgive him, but I just don’t want anything to do with him again.” In the Lord’s prayer Matt. 6:12 says, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. What would happen if God forgave us exactly the same way we are forgiving the other person?
Relationship There is a direct relationship between God’s forgiveness and our forgiveness. Eph. 4:32 gives us the exhortation to, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as the Lord has forgiven you.” God has given us a very high standard to live up to when we have the opportunity to forgive someone. God gives us the grace and the guidance we need to imitate him by forgiving others as he has forgiven us.
What Forgiveness Is Not You will never feel like forgiving someone. It involves a decision not to think or talk about what someone has done. God calls us to make this decision regardless of our feelings.
Forgiveness Is Not Forgetting Forgiving is an active process involving a conscious choice and deliberate course of action. God is not saying that He cannot remember, rather He is promising that He will not remember them. When God forgives us He chooses not to mention, recount, or think about our sins ever again. When we forgive, we must consciously decide not to think or talk about what others have done to hurt us.
Forgiveness Is Not Excusing The fact the forgiveness is needed and granted indicates that what someone did was wrong and inexcusable. Forgiveness says, “We both know that what you did was wrong and without excuse. But since God has forgiven me, I forgive you.” Forgiveness deals honestly with sin, it brings a freedom that no amount of excusing could do.
Forgiveness Is A Decision To forgive someone means to release from liability, to suffer punishment or penalty. Forgiveness can be a costly activity. When you cancel a debt, it does not simply disappear. Instead you absorb a liability someone else deserves to pay. Forgiveness requires that you absorb certain effects of another person’s sins and release the person from liability to punishment. This is what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. He secured our forgiveness by taking on himself the full penalty of our sins, (Isa. 53:4-6; I Peter 2:24-25).
Forgiveness Is A Promise Forgiveness is a decision to make four promises. I will not think about this incident. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you. I will not talk to others about this incident. I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.
Fruit Of The Promise You tear down the walls that stand between you and your offender. You promise not to dwell on or brood over the problem. You promise not to punish by holding the person at a distance or with the silent treatment. You clear the way for your relationship to develop unhindered by memories of past wrongs.
When Should You Forgive? Repentance, rightly, should precede forgiveness (Luke 17:3). Minor offenses may be overlooked and forgiven even if the offender has not expressly repented. This can help you put the matter behind you once and for all and save you and the other person from needless controversy.
Positional Forgiveness When an offense is too serious to overlook and the offender has not yet repented, you can approach forgiveness as a two stage process. The first stage may be called positional forgiveness. Positional forgiveness is unconditional and is a commitment you make to God, (Mark 11:25; Luke 6:28; Matt. 18:33-35). You promise to strive to maintain a loving and merciful attitude toward someone who has offended you. It is a decision to make the first promise of forgiveness, which means you will not dwell on the hurtful incident or seek vengeance or retribution in thought, word, or action.
Transactional Forgiveness Transactional forgiveness is conditioned on the repentance of the offender and takes place between you and that person, (Luke 17:3-5). It is a commitment to make the other three promises of forgiveness to the offender. When there has been a serious offense, it would not be unwise to make these promises until the offender has repented. (Illustration Joy) You may need to confront the offender or seek the involvement of others to resolve the matter, (Matt 18:16-20). You cannot do this if you have already made the last three promises.
Follow His Example God demonstrated both stages of forgiveness. When Christ died on the cross, he took on the position of forgiveness, maintaining an attitude of love and mercy toward those who put him to death. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34). At Pentecost, the Father’s answer to Jesus’ prayer was revealed. 3,000 people heard Peter’s Pentecost message and were cut to the heart when they realized that they had crucified the Son of God. As they repented of their sin, the transaction of forgiveness was completed, and they were fully reconciled to God, (Acts 2:36-41).
What About Consequences? Forgiveness does not automatically release a wrongdoer from all the consequences of sin. God forgave David for adultery and murder; God did not shield him from all the consequences that flowed from his sin, (2 Sam. 12:11-14). God is quick to remove the penalty of separation, (2 Sam. 12:13) and often spares us from many of the consequences of our sins. When God allows certain consequences to remain for a time, it is always to teach us and others not to sin again.
Overcoming Unforgiveness The promises of forgiveness are sometimes difficult to make and even harder to keep. God promises to help us forgive others. God gives us practical guidance and many examples in the Bible. God gives us strength through the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power and will to forgive others. For those times when we need extra help God provides counsel and encouragement through pastors and fellow Christians.
Confirm Repentance It is unwise to forgive a person who has failed to repent and confess clearly and specifically.
Renounce Sinful Attitudes And Expectations Forgiveness can be hindered by sinful attitudes and unrealistic expectations. We withhold forgiveness because we believe the offender must earn or deserve our forgiveness, or because we want to punish the offender, and make them suffer. We withhold forgiveness because we want a guarantee that such an offense will never occur again.
Assess Your Contribution to the Problem Your sins may have contributed to the conflict. Careless words, impatience, or failure to respond in a loving manner may have aggravated the situation. You may behave as though the other person’s sins more than cancel yours, leaving you with a self- righteous attitude that can retard forgiveness. The best way to overcome this tendency is to prayerfully examine your own role in the conflict and write down everything you have done or failed to do that may have been a factor.
Recognize That God Is Working for Good When you are having a hard time forgiving someone, take time to think about how God may be using that offense for good. Is this an opportunity to glorify God? How can you serve others and help them grow in their faith? What sins and weaknesses of yours are being revealed? What character qualities are you being challenged to exercise? When you see that the person who has wronged you is being used as an instrument in God’s hand to help you mature, serve others, and glorify him, it may be easier for you to move ahead with forgiveness.
Remember God’s Forgiveness Focus your attention on how much God has forgiven you. We take God’s forgiveness for granted while we stubbornly withhold our forgiveness from others. In effect, we behave as though others’ sins against us are more serious than our sins against God. Jesus teaches that this is a terribly sinful thing to do, it is an affront to God and his holiness, and it demeans the forgiveness that Jesus purchased for us at Calvary. Until we repent of this sinful attitude, we will suffer unpleasant consequences. Consequences of being separated from God and other Christians.
Draw On God’s Strength Remember that true forgiveness depends on God’s grace. If you try to forgive others on your own, you are in for a long and frustrating battle. Continually ask for and rely on God’s strength, you can forgive even the most painful offenses.
Tear Down the Wall The four promises of forgiveness tear down the wall that stands between you and a person who has wronged you. Forgiveness does not end there, after you demolish an obstruction, you usually have to clear away some debris and do some repair work.